Home Sweet Homewood. WGN Radio’s Your Hometown series features Homewood on Thursday, June 30.
One of the oldest villages in south Cook County, Homewood is located 25 miles south of the Loop. The first Europeans came to the area in the 1830s along the Vincennes Trace, a buffalo migration route later traveled by Native Americans and traders. Dixie Highway, the first national road linking northern states to southern states, runs through Homewood’s historic downtown and follows the Vincennes Trail.
The village was first named Hartford by James Hart, who planned out its first downtown district. In 1853, the Illinois Central Railroad built a station in Hartford and called in Thornton Station. In 1869, the village was renamed Homewood, as a homage to its “homes in the woods”, and then incorporated on February 2, 1893.
Homewood’s location on the Illinois Central Railroad was crucial to its growth and development. In the 1920s, Homewood evolved from a farming community to a suburb. Recreation drew many to the area and golf courses blossomed. Up to ten trains daily made the roundtrip from Chicago, offering special schedules just for golfers. Several early golf clubs still operate today including Flossmoor Country Club, Ravisloe, Idlewild, and Olympia Fields.
People also flocked to Homewood for horse racing. Washington Park Race Track opened on July 3, 1926, and was located west of Halsted just outside the village bounds. The track hosted special races between famous horses of the day and ran the American Derby until 1957. Fire destroyed the grandstands in 1977 and the track never reopened.
Outdoor activities remain popular for residents. The H-F Park District has over 365 acres with parks and recreation across the communities of Homewood and Flossmoor. Today, Homewood retains the feel of a “country town”, but is accessible to downtown Chicago with Amtrak and Metra service as well as I-80 and I-294 within reach.
A few people with ties to Homewood include:
- Ben Bradley, WGN-TV
- Aja Evans, Olympic Bronze Medalist bobsledder
- Dr. Seun Adigun, first ever Summer and Winter Olympian for the continent of Africa, founded the Nigerian bobsled team in 2016. She graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
- Sarah Bloom Raskin, former United States Deputy Secretary of the Treasury and graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School
- George Nolfi, screenwriter, director and producer who attended James Hart Junior High School and Homewood-Flossmoor High School. His screenwriting credits include “Ocean’s Twelve”, “Bourne Ultimatum”, and “The Adjustment Bureau”.
- Casey Driessen, American bluegrass fiddler and singer who attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School.